By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
Four soccer fields at Budd Park will be shutting down in two years thanks to a clause in the city’s lease, according to city staff.
Two soccer fields and the tennis courts will remain under the city’s control until 2077, but soccer fields three, four, five and six will shut down in 2014 due to a clause in the city’s lease that allows the property owner to give the city two years’ notice before they must vacate the land, according to Greg Hummel, Kitchener’s manager of park planning.
The owners of the former Kitchener Frame property, on which Budd Park is located, are currently asking the city for an official plan amendment and zone change so big-box retail can be built on a portion of the site.
“We’ve always known that that property has had a two-year clause attached to it that they could activate if they deemed it necessary for them, in terms of the property owner. They’ve chosen to do that now,” said Berry Vrbanovic, Ward 2 councillor and chair of the planning and strategic initiatives committee.
“It came, admittedly, somewhat unexpectedly. But obviously that’s happened now and we’re going to need to look at working with Kitchener Soccer to find them a new home.”
The Kitchener Soccer Club has grown by 50 per cent over the last four years, but Franck Hivert, president and chair of the board for the club, said he believes a strong working relationship with the city will go a long way toward finding adequate field space.
“I am very comfortable in any of the discussions that we have with the city that we will have the fields required to be able to offer soccer and the programming that we have in the city,” he said.
In 2011, the city installed artificial soccer fields at Woodside Park. “As a result it has increased our available playing hours and we’re obviously very excited to have our first artificial fields near downtown Kitchener,” said Hivert.
“Because of the type of field we can now play soccer earlier and later, and we’re not impacted by rain. It just gives us more hours that we can utilize the field.”
Another option to make up for the four lost fields at Budd Park is the Huron Farms property near Huron Road and Fischer Hallman Road.
The property has been designated for recreational development, which could include soccer fields, ballparks, a pool and ice rinks, according to Hummel.
“We are going to be starting a master plan process through the winter and into the spring for that property. So ideally, in the spring of 2013 we will be taking some kind of concept to council to get their support so that if we want to put soccer fields out there to replace Budd, we’ll have a pretty good indication exactly where they’ll be,” he said.
However, development of the property was not intended to take place until further in the 10-year capital forecast, according to Vrbanovic.
Council will now have to decide whether to move development of the soccer fields up, or find another way to provide field space.
“[Council] found out about [Budd Park] just a week ago, so obviously our staff are going to have to look very diligently at it so that we make sure we do the things that are necessary in the 2013 budget to ensure those fields are made available,” said Vrbanovic.
Ward 4 Coun. Yvonne Fernandes would like council to consider installing artificial turf in more of the city’s fields, rather than building new ones at Huron Farms right away.
“It depends how quickly that area grows and how much we get in development charges, because it’s a significant amount of dollars, and it has been put quite far into our 10-year capital forecast, which is right. I think there are areas within the city that really do require upgrades,” she said.
“[Huron Farms] is so far into the capital forecast, we would have to see some new funding coming from somewhere to do that. To retrofit a field might be cheaper than having to start from scratch.”
The city will continue to use all the fields in Budd Park until 2014. Vrbanovic hopes to negotiate with the property owners to allow the city to complete the 2014 soccer season before vacating the property.
“We knew that this could happen at any time since the sale of the Budd facility a couple years ago,” said Hivert.
“The four fields that we’re talking about, providing that the fields are replaced, there will be no impact on our ability to deliver programs that serve close to 6,000 registered soccer players in the community.”